How to Completely Restore Customer Confidence After Things Go Wrong

Updated: June 07, 2010

For the last ten years I have studied service failure and service recovery from every possible angle and I have benchmarked best-in-service companies throughout the world. My research has led to me uncovering a series of 6 simple, but remarkably effective strategies that will position organizations to keep customers coming back after even the worst has happened. Each of the 6 strategies is scientifically proven and surprisingly easy to execute.

I present to you How to Completely Restore Customer Confidence After Things Go Wrong: A simple 6-step customer recovery strategy.

1. Courtesy. If you solve the customer's issue, but are rude or indifferent in the process, you can still negatively impact the relationship. When customers feel like they are being treated with respect, dignity, and sensitivity by employees, they feel a sense of justice and fairness from the company.

2. Apology. Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with the recovery. When a service employee apologizes to a customer, she conveys politeness, courtesy, concern, effort, and empathy. An apology needs to be offered whether the problem is the fault of the company, customer, a third-party, or an act of nature.

3. Justification. A vital, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem happened. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust with customers.

4. Resolution. One of the gifts of a voiced complaint is that if offers the company an opportunity to re-perform the service. When given this second chance, companies must bend over backwards to fix the problem and restore customer confidence.

5. Immediateness. Research reveals that ninety-five percent of complaining customers will remain loyal if their complaint is resolved on the first contact. That number drops to seventy percent when the complaint is not immediately resolved.

6. Compensation. Reparation (in the form of discounts, free merchandise, refunds, gift cards, coupons, and product samples) after a service failure has been found to restore equity and improve customer satisfaction.

Studies show that 58% of complaining consumers who received something in the mail following their contact with consumer affairs departments were delighted, versus only 40% of those who did not receive anything.

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